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Sunday, 19 November, 2000, 21:12 GMT
Aussies outlast valiant Wales
By BBC Sport Online's Phil Gordos in Huddersfield
Australia were given the fright of their lives by underdogs Wales before eventually advancing to the Rugby League World Cup final with a 46-22 victory.
In a game of high emotion, the defending champions trailed 20-8 midway through the first half after being rocked to their foundations by a Welsh side playing with plenty of pride.
Australia were tipped to win this semi-final at a canter but only regained the lead after almost an hour of play.
They went on to win by a margin of 24 points, but it was Wales who took the glory, defying the critics who had written them off as no-hopes.
It took Australia five minutes to open the scoring, Brett Kimmorley scampering over the line after breaking two tackles.
Normally that would have signalled the opening of the floodgates but it soon became clear that the game was not about to unfold as everyone had anticipated.
Ryan Girdler missed what should have been a straightforward conversion but was given another chance when Wendell Sailor touched down in the corner six minutes later.
The normally reliable Penrith Panthers centre fluffed his kick again, all the more surprising given he had landed 17 out of 19 kicks on his way to a world points record against group one opponents Russia.
Relieved to be just eight points down rather than 12, Wales suddenly sparked into life, playing with the perfect blend of passion and discipline.
Three tries in eight, whirlwind minutes left Australia shell-shocked and the McAlpine Stadium contemplating one of the greatest upsets ever seen in sport, let alone rugby league.
Ian Watson set the ball rolling on 15 minutes when he managed to ground the ball under the posts after Anthony Farrell had breached the Australian defence.
Then Kris Tassell burst through after brilliantly picking up Lee Briers' slightly wayward pass.
The Welsh fans were in raptures at that point, hardly able to believe what was unfolding before their eyes.
When Briers showed tremendous athleticism to collect Iestyn Harris' high ball and touch the ball down, the stadium erupted in a crescendo of noise.
It was sensational stuff and must have been music to the ears of the World Cup organising committee, who have come under fire after a succession of one-sided contests and poor attendances.
But Wales were not done. Briers continued to make the Aussies suffer, kicking not one but two drop goals to extend the lead to 20-8 after Harris had landed three conversions.
Australian coach Chris Anderson must have been relieved to see his players get a few valuable seconds to compose themselves after loose forward Scott Hill was poleaxed making a tackle.
When play resumed, Brad Fittler duly reduced the deficit to eight points, with Girdler finally finding his aim.
Sailor then came within inches of scoring his second try of the game in the dying seconds of the first half but was held up by some desperate Welsh defending.
When the hooter eventually went to signal half-time, Clive Griffiths' men were deservedly given a standing ovation as they made their way to the changing rooms.
Wales built on their lead five minutes after the break, Harris slotting a penalty to make the score 22-14.
But Australia hit back with 25 minutes remaining when Bryan Fletcher grounded the ball over the line.
Wales' lead was reduced to just two points when Darren Lockyer landed the conversion after assuming the kicking duties from Girdler.
And it was finally wiped out on 58 minutes when Lockyer scored his side's fourth try of the evening.
Australia began to take a vice-like grip of the game, although the decisions of England referee Russ Smith did not win him any friends amongst the Welsh supporters.
Fittler grabbed his second try on 62 minutes, Lockyer adding a penalty and another try and conversion in quick succession to make the score 36-22 to the defending champions.
Wales looked as though they had run out of steam but managed to prevent Australia from adding to their tally until 70 minutes, when Craig Gower crossed over.
They also prevented the pre-tournament favourites from passing the 50-point mark, a try from Ben Kennedy and the conversion from Lockyer completing the scoring.
Australia: Lockyer, MacDougall, Girdler, Gidley, Sailor, Fittler (capt), Kimmorley, Webcke, Gower, Vella, Tallis, Fletcher, Hill. Replacements: Barrett, Kearns, Kennedy, Hindmarsh
Wales: Harris, Smith, Tassell, Critchley, Sullivan, Briers, Watson, Farrell, Cunningham, Moriarty, Morgan, Highton, Morley. Replacements: Davies, Atcheson, Devereux, Luckwell.
Referee: Russ Smith (England).
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